Writing – part x286, Novel Form, Dénouement and Tension

12 January 2018, Writing – Writing – part x286, Novel Form, Dénouement and Tension

Announcement:  Ancient Light is delayed due to the economy.  You can read more about it at http://www.ancientlight.com.  Ancient Light includes the second edition of Aegypt plus Sister of Light and Sister of Darkness.  I’ll keep you updated.

Introduction: I wrote the novel Aksinya: Enchantment and the Daemon. This was my 21st novel and through this blog, I gave you the entire novel in installments that included commentary on the writing. In the commentary, in addition to other general information on writing, I explained, how the novel was constructed, the metaphors and symbols in it, the writing techniques and tricks I used, and the way I built the scenes. You can look back through this blog and read the entire novel beginning with http://www.pilotlion.blogspot.com/2010/10/new-novel-part-3-girl-and-demon.html.

I’m using this novel as an example of how I produce, market, and eventually (we hope) get a novel published. I’ll keep you informed along the way.

Today’s Blog: To see the steps in the publication process, visit my writing website http://www.ldalford.com/ and select “production schedule,” you will be sent to http://www.sisteroflight.com/.

The four plus one basic rules I employ when writing:

  1. Don’t confuse your readers.
  2. Entertain your readers.
  3. Ground your readers in the writing.
  4. Don’t show (or tell) everything.
  5. Immerse yourself in the world of your writing.

These are the steps I use to write a novel including the five discrete parts of a novel:

  1. Design the initial scene
  2. Develop a theme statement (initial setting, protagonist, protagonist’s helper or antagonist, action statement)
    1. Research as required
    2. Develop the initial setting
    3. Develop the characters
    4. Identify the telic flaw (internal and external)
  3. Write the initial scene (identify the output: implied setting, implied characters, implied action movement)
  4. Write the next scene(s) to the climax (rising action)
  5. Write the climax scene
  6. Write the falling action scene(s)
  7. Write the dénouement scene

I finished writing my 28th novel, working title, School, potential title Deirdre: Enchantment and the School. The theme statement is: Sorcha, the abandoned child of an Unseelie and a human, secretly attends Wycombe Abbey girls’ school where she meets the problem child Deirdre and is redeemed.

Here is the cover proposal for Deirdre: Enchantment and the School.

Cover Proposal

The most important scene in any novel is the initial scene, but eventually, you have to move to the rising action. I continued writing my 29th novel, working title Red Sonja. I finished my 28th novel, working title School. If you noticed, I started on number 28, but finished number 29 (in the starting sequence—it’s actually higher than that). I adjusted the numbering. I do keep everything clear in my records. I’ll be providing information on the marketing materials and editing.

How to begin a novel. Number one thought, we need an entertaining idea. I usually encapsulate such an idea with a theme statement. Since I’m writing a new novel, we need a new theme statement. Here is an initial cut.

For novel 29: Red Sonja, a Soviet spy, infiltrates the X-plane programs at Edwards AFB as a test pilot’s administrative clerk, learns about freedom, and is redeemed.

This is the classical form for writing a successful novel:

  1. Design the initial scene
  2. Develop a theme statement (initial setting, protagonist, protagonist’s helper or antagonist, action statement)
    1. Research as required
    2. Develop the initial setting
    3. Develop the characters (protagonist, antagonist, and optionally the protagonist’s helper)
    4. Identify the telic flaw of the protagonist (internal and external)
  3. Write the initial scene (identify the output: implied setting, implied characters, implied action movement)
  4. Write the next scene(s) to the climax (rising action)
  5. Write the climax scene
  6. Write the falling action scene(s)
  7. Write the dénouement scene

The protagonist and the telic flaw are tied permanently together. The novel plot is completely dependent on the protagonist and the protagonist’s telic flaw. They are inseparable. This is likely the most critical concept about any normal (classical) form novel.

Here are the parts of a normal (classical) novel:

  1. The Initial scene (identify the output: implied setting, implied characters, implied action movement)
  2. The Rising action scenes
  3. The Climax scene
  4. The Falling action scene(s)
  5. The Dénouement scene

So, how do you write a rich and powerful initial scene? Let’s start from a theme statement. Here is an example from my latest novel:

The theme statement for Deirdre: Enchantment and the School is: Sorcha, the abandoned child of an Unseelie and a human, secretly attends Wycombe Abbey girls’ school where she meets the problem child Deirdre and is redeemed.

Here is the scene development outline:

  1. Scene input (comes from the previous scene output or is an initial scene)
  2. Write the scene setting (place, time, stuff, and characters)
  3. Imagine the output, creative elements, plot, telic flaw resolution (climax) and develop the tension and release.
  4. Write the scene using the output and creative elements to build the tension.
  5. Write the release
  6. Write the kicker

If you have the characters (protagonist, protagonist’s helper, and antagonist), the initial setting, the telic flaw (from the protagonist), a plot idea, the theme action, then you are ready to write the initial scene.  I would state that since you have a protagonist, the telic flaw, a plot idea, and the theme action, you have about everything—what you might be lacking is the tension and release cycle in your scenes.

Here is an example of developing or building tension and release in a scene.  This example is from Shadow of Darkness an Ancient Light novel. The falling action of this novel is very short, and the dénouement is more than one scene.  This is a little unusual, but not that unusual.  In my outline for a novel, I’m specific that the falling action is usually one or more scenes, and the dénouement is one scene.  This is not always true.

What you can depend on is that the initial scene is a single scene.  The rising action must be multiple scenes.  The climax will always be a single scene.  The falling action will be at least a scene.  The dénouement will be at least a scene.

Every novel will have a dénouement.  This is the “getting the characters off the stage of the novel” scene.  This is literally where the author wraps up the novel, cleans up any loose ends, and hustles the characters off the stage.  I also recommend a kicker of some type at the end.

Perhaps the kicker of most novels is not as well remembered as the initial sentence or paragraph, but in my mind, this is the last opportunity the author has to touch the reader’s heart and soul.  In my mind, the dénouement and the kicker of the dénouement are where the author concludes the novel.

I want to be very specific about this.  I’ve written about the dénouement before.  This isn’t a time for moralizing.  This isn’t a time to wax eloquent. The dénouement is the time to wrap up the novel.  With this in mind, this is the opportunity to bring together all the main ideas and forces in the novel in an entertaining and exciting way.  Let’s also be clear, the dénouement is not a postscript.  The dénouement is a part and portion of the novel.  It can tell the end results about the characters future lives, but it doesn’t need to. The dénouement simple and elegantly closes the novel.

Here is the scene:        

Goodberry brought the afternoon mail to Mrs. Marie Bolang Hastings. Marie rocked little Leora gently on her lap and hoped she wasn’t ready to feed again.  Her husband George Hastings, the heir to the Hastings estate and name, held little Paul.  Paul was a precocious three and already knew more than he should.  He was reading the Afternoon Times with his papa.


Marie parsed the day’s letters and came to a peculiar one.  This letter was from America and had a New York return address.  Her mother and father lived in the American Midwest now.  Although they traveled a lot, Marie didn’t expect them to visit New York any time soon.  Marie stared at the letter for a moment then picked it up.  She opened the envelope quickly and pulled out the letter.


Marie Norton Whitney Harriman

New York, New York, USA

23 September 1953

Dear Marie Hastings

I was so happy to hear about your marriage to that fine young officer we met in London.  I’m glad you could use the silver we sent. That all seems like so many years ago.  Indeed, almost four years have passed and I’m not sure where the time went.  I did get to meet your parents in Washington, but that was also a while ago.  I do hope you have an opportunity to visit me in the states, but that is not the reason I am writing to you now.

I know you were very interested in the Russian woman named Svetlana Evgenyevna Kopylova.  By odd coincidence, my husband heard her name mentioned during a Senate hearing and looked into the issue.  Apparently, Ms. Kopylova defected to the United States. She is being held by the State Department for questioning and a hearing.  Because Averell knew her in Russia, he was called as a witness.  I wanted to take a deposition in her defense too, but they said my testimony was not needed.  The date of her final hearing is 4 October.  Then the powers that be will decide whether to allow her to stay in the United States or return her to the Soviet Union.

Everything is going well here.  Averell is contemplating a run for the Governorship of New York.  Please come see me if you are in the states.

Your Friend,

Marie Harriman

Marie sat up abruptly, and almost dropped little Leora.  Leora gave a squawk and Marie gently lifted her against her shoulder.


George Hastings and Paul popped their heads above the newspaper, “What’s wrong Marie?”


“George, please George.  I have to call my mother.”


George stared at his wristwatch, “Goodness, Marie, it’s the break of day in the states, and it’s not our usual day to call.”


“I know George, I know it’s very expensive, but please, I must speak to her now.  She’ll be awake.”


George looked at little Paul, “Paul should we let mama speak on the phone to grandmamma?”


In his clear but typically childish voice, Paul smirked, “Yes, papa, but only if we can speak to Colonel Grandpapa too.”


“There you heard the word, Marie.”


She scowled at them both, “Goodberry, Goodberry.”


Goodberry came around the corner at a run, “Yes, my lady.”


“Please, Goodberry, could you get the operator to ring my mother.  You know the number.”


“Yes, my lady.”


They had a wait for the connections, but in a few moments Goodberry brought the phone while it was still ringing.


Leora Bolang picked up the phone on the other end, “Bolang.”


“Mama,” exclaimed Marie, “Mama, I’ve found Lumière.”  She paused, “Mama?  Did you hear me?”


There was silence on the other end of the phone.  Then a voice suddenly very weary came across it, “Marie, Lumière is dead.  She died a long time ago in Berlin.”


“She isn’t dead, mama.”  With enormous guilt in her heart Marie cried, “Mama, Uncle Bruce found her in Russia years ago, but he didn’t want me to tell you.  I’m sorry, mama, but I didn’t want to make you feel that pain all over again.”


Marie could hear her mother’s tears over the phone line, “But, Marie, how do you know it’s Lumière?”


“I have a picture, and Uncle Bruce had a packet of intelligence information he showed Aunt Tilly and me.  Lumière has been in the Soviet Union as a highly placed person in their government.  He didn’t want me to tell you because anything we did could have exposed and hurt her.”


“Then Uncle Bruce was right.  She is lost to us, Marie.”


“But she isn’t lost.  She escaped.  My friend Marie Harriman sent me a letter.  Lumière is being tried—not tried exactly.  She has a hearing at the State Department on October fourth.  They will decide whether to allow her to stay in the United States or send her back to the Soviet Union.  Mama, we can’t let that happen.”


“Marie, are you absolutely certain this person is Lumière?”


“Mother I would never call you with something this important if I didn’t know it was true.”




“Her name is Svetlana Evgenyevna Kopylova.  She was a translator for Stalin.  I have her photograph—she looks exactly like Lumière.  I’ll be traveling as soon as I can.”  Marie hung up the phone.


Paul pouted, “You didn’t let us speak to Colonel Grandpapa.”


Marie kissed his cheek, “You will see them both soon enough.  George, we must go to America for a few days.  Can you get off work?”


“I was listening to everything.  This is very short notice, Marie, but for the sake of your sister, I think if I talk to Bruce Lyons, I can make it a business trip.”


“Can we get there by the fourth?”


“By plane, but the arrangements might be tight.”


If you have been following along, you know at that Marie has known about Sveta for a long time—for at least four years.  She didn’t tell her mother or father because of the potential international and familial consequences. Now that Sveta or more correctly Lumière has escaped from the Soviet Union, there is no reason to keep this secret.

At this point everything from the beginning of the novel is coming to fruition.  If you remember, Lumière (Sveta) believed she had lost her family’s confidence or even worse, she had betrayed their ethical and moral ideals.  In point of fact, she is a person of great power and great moral fiber. She succeeded where many others would fail.

In this scene, we see the setup for the final obvious confrontation.  The expected but unexpected, and we are well past the climax.

As an aside, I would like to point out that the climax was just this expected but unexpected result or resolution.  The expectation for the reader was there could be no resolution for Sveta—she was tied to the Soviet State in a way that she could never escape.  Then came the death of Stalin and the realization that she had to escape.  The reader could then picture the escape, but the scene was not necessarily expected.  At the same time, all the elements and foreshadowing in the novel came together in a way that one might be able to conclude, in retrospect, that’s the way it should have ended—the unexpected, expected resolution of the telic flaw.

I’ll give you more examples.

More tomorrow.

For more information, you can visit my author site http://www.ldalford.com/, and my individual novel websites:








fiction, theme, plot, story, storyline, character development, scene, setting, conversation, novel, book, writing, information, study, marketing, tension, release, creative, idea, logic


About L.D. Alford

L. D. Alford is a novelist whose writing explores with originality those cultures and societies we think we already know. His writing distinctively develops the connections between present events and history—he combines them with threads of reality that bring the past alive. L. D. Alford is familiar with technology and cultures—he is widely traveled and earned a B.S. in Chemistry from Pacific Lutheran University, an M.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Boston University, a Ph.D. in Aerospace Engineering from The University of Dayton, and is a graduate of Air War College, Air Command and Staff College, and the USAF Test Pilot School. L. D. Alford is an author who combines intimate scientific and cultural knowledge into fiction worlds that breathe reality. He is the author of three historical fiction novels: Centurion, Aegypt, and The Second Mission, and three science fiction novels: The End of Honor, The Fox’s Honor, and A Season of Honor.
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